How We Chose Our First Community To Cover

Thursday, October 8th 2020

Decibel’s move to become a community journalism project means we’re working to have a lasting positive impact. Not only are we changing how we approach our reporting, but we’ve thought about the guiding light principals that we hope will let us share authentic stories.

We’ve set up a new editorial strategy that will help us succeed. We’ve adapted this framework from the Listening Post Collective, which aims to help journalists have meaningful conversations with the communities they cover. Our new editorial strategy can be broken down into five steps:

  • Step 1: Choose a community
  • Step 2: Visit and listen to that community
  • Step 3: Survey and document what that community has to say
  • Step 4: Create content based on community feedback
  • Step 5: Keep the conversation with that community going

The first step in our new process is choosing a community. Under this model we identify a community that has either been underserved by the news media (i.e. not reported on much or ever) or a community that has traditionally been reported on in a one-dimensional way.

Earlier this year, Decibel staff member Blair Waltman-Alexin did a report on the distrust of the U.S. Census within the Asian American community. We learned a lot from this reporting, including that Decibel has work to do when it comes to showcasing Asian American voices. So far in 2020, Decibel has featured six Asian American voices in interviews or stories. For all Austin PBS productions this year, Asian Americans accounted for 2.8% of our on-camera representation. We’re not alone. KUT reports that only 3% of their sources are Asian American.

Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial demographic group in Texas. Since 2010 the Asian American population in Texas has grown by 42%. In Austin, about 8% of the city’s population identifies as Asian or Asian American. Austin’s Asian American community is the second largest in the state and Asian Americans are one of the largest racial demographic groups in the city, coming second only to Latinos.

There’s also incredible diversity within Austin’s Asian American community. People report heritage from India, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Korea and a wide range of other countries. Households speak many different languages including Urdu, Vietnamese, Tagalong, Mandarin and Cantonese.

This is why we chose Asian Americans as the first community to cover under our new mission. Despite being a large, diverse demographic, Asian Americans are often overlooked in news stories. We are starting by focusing on the 2020 election with the hopes of exploring more issues within this community after November.

How we choose which communities to focus on will continue to evolve as we experiment with our new editorial strategy. We are learning new insight and bettering our practices every day, but know our methods will constantly need retooling to ensure we are achieving our mission.

The next step in our editorial process is to visit and listen with the community we are reporting on. We plan to share more about how we are listening to the Asian American community during Covid-19 and how that listening has influenced our reporting in the next coming weeks.

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